This past summer I set up a make shift summer kitchen on my front porch. It worked well. So I’m planning on expanding it this year and building upon some of my experience.
I first got the idea to move my canning outdoors when the “special order” canning burner on my Maytag electric range literally blew up early one morning after only 2 years. It sounded like an explosion when the burner shorted out. All the electric lights in the house browned out and the explosion melted part of the electric service panel in the basement. The electric panel had to be replaced and ended up costing $600 – just about the price of the stove.
My favorite 2 gallon stainless steel tea kettle that I use for canning was also a casualty that morning. The explosion blew a large black hole in the bottom of the kettle and spewed 2 gallons of water all over the stove, wall, counter top and onto the floor.
The repairs to the stove were going to cost over $130 to replace the burner, the shorted out control knob and for the service call. Why throw more good money away on obvious junk? I called and emailed Maytag to complain but they really couldn’t have cared less. As far as I’m concerned, a Consumer Complaint with Maytag is about as productive as pounding sand in a rat hole. So I decided to forget it and live with 3 working burners until the entire stove dies.
I’ll never forgive Maytag – and I’ll certainly never buy another one of their products. But that decision left me with the problem of finding a set up that could take the weight and heat of non-stop summer canning.
The owner of the family owned appliance store where I bought my electric stove explained to me the facts of life about major appliances that are sold in the US. They aren’t made to last and inferior parts are used to keep the cost low. That’s the reason a freezer or an electric stove is cheaper today than it was 20 years ago. He suggested I find an electric stove from the 1950′s or 60′s ( they made them rock solid back then), or that I buy a LP propane 2 burner camp stove. So I did.
I bought a camp stove at Dick’s Sporting Goods for $110. I set the camp stove on an enameled baker’s table on the front porch and did an entire summer’s worth of canning there. The stove came with wind shields. Sometimes I used them – sometimes I didn’t . When it was windy the shields worked very well and the wind was never a problem. I thought insects would be some trouble but they weren’t either. A couple of times I did have to take the fly swatter to some yellow jackets but it was no big deal.
Canning on the porch kept the heat out of the kitchen. It also kept the mess outside. Anybody who has ever processed sweet corn knows what I’m talking about. After a day of canning I don’t always feel like cleaning up right away, and with the mess outside I could walk away from it until the morning.
When it was time to clean up I just used a garden hose to clean off the floor, walls and table. A problem I encountered was keeping the jars, lids and bands hot. When canning inside my kitchen, I used the dishwasher to wash the jars and keep them hot. In fact that’s the primary reason I own a dishwasher. I didn’t have a sink or an easy way to hold a large quantity of jars in hot water to keep them hot.
This year I’m going to work on getting a double sided plastic or fiberglass tub for the porch. That way I can hold the jars and have hot water to clean up after the jars are removed. The biggest problem I encountered was having to return to the house too often for some items I forgot I needed.
This year I’m going to have an entire extra set of basic kitchen utensils, hot pads and towels and keep them on a shelf on the porch. Another small table would be nice too. I would love to one day build a small detached 20 X 20 summer kitchen and small studio but don’t know if I’ll ever get to it.